Products that Fly

At Skydio our fundamental goal is to deliver the power and magic of flying cameras without the complexity. Current drones are cool gadgets for enthusiasts but still a curiosity to mainstream consumers. Our belief is that advanced onboard computer vision and artificial intelligence, combined with world class hardware product design, will yield a breakthrough that makes drones a trusted part of our daily lives.

Our hardware team is comprised of seasoned engineers from Apple and Tesla, and this pedigree shows in the product we’re developing. We’ve created a flying robot with advanced silicon and a multitude of sensors that pushes the limits of high-speed digital and power electronics design.  From this dense technology foundation evolves an incredible new breed of intelligent device.

A big part of what excites us goes beyond what we’re building today and lies in the possibilities ahead. We know that onboard intelligence is an architecture not a feature. This intelligence is rooted in a fundamental connection between algorithms, compute hardware, and sensors which fuels our dedication to building world-class software and hardware teams. Together, we couldn’t be more excited about expanding the possibilities of our world by building a collaborative future between people and robots.

Series A

We started Skydio to make the power of flight a trusted and useful part of people’s everyday lives.The idea is very simple: make the drone smart enough to fly fully autonomously with agility, visual awareness, and intention beyond the capabilities of an expert pilot.

Seeing the powerful product experiences we envisioned come alive in our prototypes has reinforced this vision. It’s also driven a desire to control the entire product experience, including designing and building the drone itself. Today, I’m excited to announce our $25M Series A, led by Andreessen Horowitz with Accel and a group of angel investors participating in the round.

Our founding team met as grad students at MIT where we developed hardware and software that pioneered intelligent navigation for drones. Our team at Skydio now includes world experts in robotics and computer vision from the top research labs in the world, and engineering leaders from Apple, Tesla, and Google[x]. We’re building a company oriented towards unlocking the incredible magic that lives behind the biggest challenges in the industry. If you want to help make this happen, we’d love to hear from you.

Frank Dellaert - Chief Scientist

I’m excited to announce that Frank Dellaert has joined Skydio as our Chief Scientist. The work that Frank has done over his career as a professor at Georgia Tech speaks for itself. His research grouphas been at the forefront of perception, estimation, and SLAM for over a decade.  We’re thrilled to bring his expertise and leadership in the field to our team. Above all of this, it was Frank’s passion for what we’re doing that made this a natural fit. He shares our belief that by bringing together the right technology (and the right team) we can make the flying camera an intuitive, trusted tool in our daily lives. He brings an adventurous spirit to what we’re confident will be an incredible adventure.

Welcome Frank! 

FAA Regulations and Line of Sight

Recently the FAA announced proposed regulations for the use of drones in commercial settings.Overall, the regulations represent a positive step for the industry. The major limitation that’s been thrust to the fore is the line of sight requirement: the proposal mandates that every vehicle flown has a dedicated operator within line of sight at all times.

The basic premise here is that you can’t trust a drone to do the right thing if you don’t have a person watching it. While this is conservative, with current technology it’s also justified. Currently available drones are entirely reliant on GPS for autonomous flight, and have no ability to sense and navigate their surroundings. This means they need to fly high above the nearest structures and/or have an expert pilot flying them at all times.

We believe visual navigation is the key to delivering true autonomy such that drones can be trusted to operate safely beyond line of sight and without the constant attention of an expert operator. It also of course makes in light of sight operation safer, more reliable, and more accessible.

With our prototype systems, we’ve already demonstrated vision-based navigation and obstacle avoidance. We look forward to putting this capability into end customers’ hands, and demonstrating that safe autonomous flight is possible.

Research Leverage

As research fields mature, the most interesting work often transitions from happening in labs to happening in companies whose primary business is based on the technology. Twenty years ago if you wanted to advance the state of the art in search, Stanford was a great place to be. Today, if you want to advance the state of the art in search you’re much better off sitting on top of the data, infrastructure, tools, knowledge base, and centralized talent of Google or Baidu. Similarly, if you are interested in large scale distributed systems research, it is hard to work on more interesting challenges than those provided by the cloud infrastructure of Amazon, Facebook, Dropbox, etc.

Today, many people think that academia is the best place to be if you want to push the state of the art in robotics: computer vision, motion planning, control, and autonomy. Tomorrow, it will be clear that the best place to push the state of the art in these fields is at companies built around the core technologies.

Fundamentally, resources are meager in pure research settings compared to what’s available at great tech companies that reinvest in R&D. What’s been missing in robotics is a large market with problems that are in reach of the state of the art to spawn great companies. Today, there are three candidate markets coming into focus: manufacturing, self-driving cars, and drones. Of these, I believe that drones are the most interesting. Self-driving cars and manufacturing robots will allow us to do existing tasks more efficiently, while drones open up a world of possibilities that simply doesn’t exist today.

The success of manually piloted consumer and industrial inspection drones has shown us that “dumb drones” are already a billion dollar market. It seems a pretty safe bet that smart drones that are easy and intuitive for anyone to use (or operate fully autonomously) constitute a significantly larger market opportunity.

Today’s grad students in robotics spend half their time or more writing software “glue”, fixing broken robots, manually collecting datasets and other “distractions” in isolation. In tomorrow’s smart drone companies, researchers will have access to millions of flight hours of data collected in real world situations, uncovering untold interesting problems and opportunities for innovation. No more guessing what the research challenge is. They’ll work alongside exceptional hardware teams that build computation and sensor suites exactly to specification. They’ll use tools and infrastructure built by the best software engineers that make it easy to focus on getting the few lines of code that implement a new idea just right.

We’re very excited about the end customer experience we can deliver, but we’re also excited about the experience of doing product driven research at Skydio.

Takeoff

We’re excited to announce the launch of Skydio and the closing of our $3 million seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz with Accel Partners participating.

Drones are poised to have a transformative impact on how we see our world. They’ll enable us to film the best moments of our lives with professional quality cinematography and they’ll also change the way businesses think about monitoring their operations and infrastructure. This grand vision is starting to come into focus, but existing products are blind to the world around them. As a consequence, drones must fly high above the nearest structures or receive the constant attention of an expert operator. “Flyaways” and crashes abound. These problems must be solved for the industry to move forward.

Skydio’s mission is to make the enormous potential of the aerial platform available, safe, and intuitive for a much broader audience and a much broader set of applications. A drone that’s aware of its surroundings is far easier to control, safer to operate, and more capable. Almost all the information a drone needs to be good at its job can be found in onboard video data; the challenge is extracting that information and making it useful for the task at hand. That challenge, and the incredible capabilities that are unlocked, are our focus.

For us this project is about harnessing the beauty and power of flight to make it “universally accessible and useful.” I’ve been building stuff that flies since I was five years old. First it was balsa wood and rubber bands, then there were electronics and big gas motors. When I was sixteen I won my first national championship flying radio controlled aerobatics. This passion for flight led me to engineering, and in particular leveraging the power of software and algorithms to make autonomous vehicles with capabilities beyond those of the best human pilots.

I met my co-founders through this pursuit. Abe Bachrach, our CTO, was my labmate at MIT where he led our research group’s pioneering work in GPS-denied flight. Together we were on the founding team of Project Wing at Google[x]. Matt Donahoe, our CXO (X for eXperience), grew up making movies before turning to programming as another storytelling medium. Our passions and experience come together in Skydio.

We’re at an incredibly exciting point in the evolution of technology. Many centuries worth of knowledge in mathematics and computer science is poised to create the first meaningfully autonomous systems for everyday use: algorithms that animate the real world. At Skydio we believe this will be the most rewarding engineering challenge of our generation. If you’re excited about taking it on, we want to hear from you.